It’s undeniable that YA urban fantasy has become more and more popular over the last few years, particularly with series like Cassandra Clare’s Mortal Instruments/Infernal Devices. Maureen Johnson’s The Name of the Star is the first in her Shades of London books.
Set in London, obviously, The Name of the Star tells the story of Rory who has moved from Louisiana to London and is attending boarding school when a series of killings in the same vein as Jack the Ripper causing Rippermania to explode in London.
Before one murder, Rory sees a man who her roommate Jazza does not. He is the only suspect so far into the cases, but why did her friend not see him too? This leads to her becoming the mysterious man’s next target and leads her to a discovery of her own supernatural abilities and a secret ghost police in London.
There are many great things I loved reading this book, I read the whole thing in one day, and was fully engaged. As a UK YA blogger, the majority of books these days are American or Americans coming to London, so I always end up wearing my obsessive detail hat reading these, almost checking for errors. Johnson wins points from me for realising there are other cities than London, hi Bristol!, and her meticulous research on Ripper sites and history in London. While some novels of this ilk can make English characters cliched tropes and two-dimensional, most of her characters had a degree of authenticity, though some such as Charlotte occasionally erred on the side of the cliche.
As a crime fan as well, I feel the novel would work just as well without the supernatural edge and the chapters before the supernatural comes in were really chilling and effective. The supernatural did work for me too though, and the semi-cliffhanger ending has left me interested enough to read the rest of the series.
Despite the novel’s dark themes, it is filled with humour and that all important teenage romance and is a highly enjoyable read.
A definite recommendation for fans of YA supernatural novels, anyone with a little bit of a hankering for crime novels and people interested in the Jack the Ripper case.
Author’s page, with links to buy the book: http://www.maureenjohnsonbooks.com/books/the-name-of-the-star/